Monday, June 22, 2009

Complexes For Muscle Growth?

When most people think of classic hypertrophy training, they refer to the usual "8-12reps with a 4-2-0 tempo", but as Russian Weightlifter Vasily Alexeev found out, tempo - besides being incredibly boring - is not nearly as important as total time under tension.

This article (pg 3 - Science of Big) gives us some more insight into how time under tension and FAST eccentrics (weight lowering) can lead to muscle growth. This would explain the phenomenom of guys getting jacked with stuff like barbell complexes, high rep kettlebell work, sled dragging, and the like.

While most tend to think of that kind of work as just "conditioning", Vasily used complexes and such to pack muscle on to his students.

Check this out...

“Usually the athletes lift barbells and then immediately drop them. This takes several seconds,” comments Dmitri Ivanov who interviewed the maverick lifter. “According to Alexeev’s method, the athlete finds himself under the weight for a period of two or three minutes. The entire body must sustain this prolonged effort, as the athlete completes several consecutive exercises
without letting go of the equipment. The weight of the barbell is relatively light, but the varied work with it affects every muscle cell. By the end of the two-week session, all of Alexeev’s students had increased their bodyweight as a result of muscle growth—and at the same time they’d increased their abilities.”

Pretty cool stuff, huh?

In talking about complexes, Dan John also notes the increases of muscle growth in his athletes.

His explanation?

"When you watch a sophomore boy handle Complex A with 155 for three complexes of three reps each, you have to realize that this is a very strong human being, even if he's just 15."

The great part about complexes is that you can get in a serious workout in just 15 or 20 minutes (and sometimes even way less) - packing in a ton of volume in a very short amount of time.

Let's take a look at some of our options with complexes and all the different tools that you can use...

Barbell Complexes
Dumbbell Complexes (two handed or single hand)
Kettlebell Complexes
Sandbag Complexes
Keg Complexes
Sled Dragging Complexes
Grappler Complexes (or just take two barbells and throw them in a corner)

I'm going to say that one should train exclusively with complexes, but definately throwing them in a few times a week would be a great addition to your training. Any athlete can benefit from complexes, but combat athletes especially would benefit from the huge amount of time under tension. Its one thing to have great levels of maximal strength - and its the base for all athletes to work from - but its another thing to be able to express that strength for a period of several minutes.

For the guys looking to pack on some size, try one of Dan John's or Alwyn Cosgrove's complexes for 3 or 4 sets with some decent weight and wonder how they wouldn't help put on some muscle.

Here's a new video from the Diesel Crew, demonstrating a serious sandbag complex

If its good enough for the Diesel Crew, then its good enough for me! Start rethinking your hypertrophy training and don't be afraid to sway from the masses!


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